I am sweet enough

My lovely daughter decided to experiment with a sugar free cake for me yesterday, and made a chocolate sponge. She used half gluten free and half ordinary flour (just to use the gluten free stuff up) and it works surprisingly well. Otherwise the ingredients were the sort most of us would have in the cupboard. It does contain a little honey as she didn’t realise that I wasn’t eating it, but no refined sweeteners. I don’t want her to think I don’t appreciate her kind efforts, so I am eating it anyway. It is really quite nice – I think I may try some more sugar free cake recipes, perhaps using some mashed banana or stewed apples to add sweetness.

She is her mother’s daughter. She found a recipe online and adapted it to what we had in the cupboards. This is it:

Half cup of cocoa powder
Quarter cup of gluten free self-raising flour (can use ordinary flour)
Quarter cup of plain ordinary flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
Half tsp cinnamon
6 eggs
Half a cup of honey
Half a cup of olive oil
Half a cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ones and whisk well. Pour into a 9 inch greased and lined cake tin and bake for 50-60 minutes. Test at 50 minutes as you don’t want it to be dry. If you aren’t avoiding sugar you could ice it, but we have eaten it with a little Lactofree cream and chopped banana and it’s very nice.

I was hoping to lose a few pounds, but I have discovered another unexpected benefit of cutting out refined sugar. I am a lot less bloated! Without going into unnecessary detail, I suffer from IBS and know that it is mostly caused by what I am eating. Over the years I have identified dairy products (not hard cheese, which is fine), soya, onions, beans, leeks, cauliflower and cabbage as trigger foods. Luckily Lactofree milk, yogurts and soft cheese are now available  (more expensive than the usual stuff but taste just the same), I use celery where a recipe calls for onions and the other stuff is easy enough to avoid.  However, it never occurred to me that sweet things caused an issue. I am not saying I would give them up altogether, but perhaps only eat small amounts at any one time or on any single day.

I managed to sell 6 items on eBay this week, mainly clothes that my daughter was getting rid of. Not huge amounts of money, but every little helps! I have spent very little on anything since I was waiting on a new bank card, but since I buy practically nothing these days anyway it didn’t cause me any stress! I did need to pop to Lidl for some groceries for the week but other than that I haven’t spent anything at all. 

I checked my bank balance this morning and my statement looks very uncomplicated. There isn’t much on there that isn’t a direct debit or standing order against a particular bill. I need to do a spring clean and have a long, hard look to see if there is anything I could get rid of. I would like to wave goodbye to the TV package I have with Virgin but I have a year on the contract. I am determined to buy a Freeview box when the contract expires and just stick with the channels on there plus Netflix.

I am working on a books page for the blog now, to be titled My Frugal Bookshelf. There are so many inspiring books out there and it is good to share. If you have any you can recommend, let me know and I will try to get hold of a copy to review.

Have a happy Sunday!

Fabulous Easy Fruit Cake

Thanks for all the comments on gluten free baking yesterday. I have had much more success with my baking today!

Today I made my favourite fruit cake. I make it about once a month. As suggested by Kate in the comments yesterday, to make it gluten free I substituted the wheat flour for 75% Dove’s Farm self raising and 25% ground almonds. I also added 1 fl oz more milk as I have read that GF flour can take more liquid than the regular stuff. The recipe was given to me about 15 years ago, and I have it stuck to the front of one of my baking books. It was a huge success in its gluten free form – as you can see, several pieces had gone before I even got round to taking the photo!

imageHere is the recipe, in old money so apologies to those of you who are strictly metric:

8 oz self raising flour or 6 oz GF self raising with 2 oz ground almonds
1 tsp mixed spice
5 oz brown sugar
2 eggs
5 oz butter or margarine
12oz dried mixed fruit
4 fl oz milk, or 5 if using GF flour

Gas mark 2/150C for 1 1/4 hours (check after an hour as you don’t want to over cook it)

Grease and line an 8 inch round cake tin.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat well until mixed.
Place the mixture in the tin and smotth the top.
Cook until firm.

It couldn’t be easier and is fail safe as long as you don’t cook it too high.

I also discovered that yesterday’s cheese muffins weren’t quite the disaster I thought they were. When they were hot, the feta tasted awful – really overwhelming. This morning, tasting one cold, they were much nicer. The recipe suggested refreshing them in the microwave for 30 seconds before eating, so I tried that and my muffin was really quite good. Better for lunch with some soup or a salad than the dry GF rolls I have been buying in the supermarket. I have frozen them in batches of six to take to work and left some out to eat over the weekend.

Mr Shoestring and his brother spent much of the day on the roof finishing off. They have done a splendid job. The roof now appears to be completely water tight and cost about £200, rather than the £1500 we feared a roofer would charge us.

Best gluten free chocolate brownies

imageI have mentioned previously that I bought two nice looking little gluten free cookery books last week. One is Hamlyn 200 Gluten Free Recipes by Louise Blair and the other is BBC Good Food Everyday Gluten free Recipes. They both look really promising and seem to use ingredients that are easy to buy in the local supermarket.

Yesterday was my first chance to try out a imagerecipe and I thought I would start with some chocolate brownies from the BBC book. Actually they should have been made with fresh raspberries too, but they aren’t easy to come by this time of year so I decided to stick with just chocolate.  My local Co-op only had milk chocolate so that is what I used. They were delicious! They weren’t cheap to make however so I will save this recipe for treats. Here is the original version. Next time I will be more prepared and use Aldi’s cheap dark chocolate – today I used Cadbury’s!

imageChocolate and raspberry brownies

Makes 15 squares

200g dark chocolate broken into chunks
100g milk chocolate broken into chunks
250g pack salted butter
400g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
140g gf plain flour
50g cocoa powder
200g raspberries

Heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20x30cm baking tin. Gently melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in a saucepan, stirring well. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs one at a time. Move to a mixing bowl and sieve in the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk together, then stir in half the raspberries. Pour the mixture into the tin and scatter over the remaining raspberries. Bake for 30-35 minutes until set but nice and squidgy. Cool and then cut into squares.

I have put half in the freezer as they are best eaten within three days.

We had them still warm with a cup of tea but they would be fab as a posh pudding with a big dollop of cream.

I want to try some corn and cheese muffins next which are made with polenta and look scrumptious!

Not a complete disaster!!

Yesterday I blogged about my attempt at making a gluten free chocolate cake. It all went a bit wonky as my oven shelf tipped as I put the cakes in and I didn’t notice. This meant they were fat one end and thin and biscuit like at the other end. Undeterred, I took them out of the tins and sandwiched them together with chocolate spread.

Not a beautiful cake, but an edible one....

Not a beautiful cake, but an edible one….

Well, this cake doesn’t look pretty, that’s for sure! It is rather crumbly at the edges and completely uneven. However, it does actually taste quite acceptable. Me and DD3 each had a piece. But cake should be scrumptious and delicious, not just acceptable. It has a nice light texture, but is missing something. I think I will attempt it again but this time, instead of adding cocoa powder, I will melt some actual chocolate and mix that in. Hopefully that will solve the crumbling issue and make it taste richer. If that works I might go the whole hog and whip up some cream to add to the filling. I think I need to experiment a lot more!

I used the Dove Farm flour that I bought in Sainsbury’s the other day. The recipe for the chocolate cake was on the packet. The only thing I added was some Xanthan gum, since I had it and it is supposed to make gluten free cakes lighter.

It is going to be trial and error but hopefully I can find some decent recipes for the basics over time.

I had to go to a meeting in Chelmsford today. I knew there would be biscuits which I wouldn’t be able to eat so I bought a gluten free seed bar on the way in. I thought it might be fit for the birds, but actually it was lovely as well as healthy. I will buy one again! If you see these and want a healthy treat, give one a try!

Pumpkin cake

I finally got round to making a huge batch of pumpkin soup at the weekend. I added curry powder and it was delicious. So lots of frugal lunches packed away in the freezer  for Autumn.

imageI also used some of the pumpkin flesh to make pumpkin cake. If you like carrot cake you will certainly like this. I left out the orange peel because I didn’t have any and used standard icing rather than the cream cheese variety. It has made a lovely moist cake. If I make it again I will freeze it in slices for our lunch boxes, probably without the icing though.

Here is the recipe:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4777/halloween-pumpkin-cake

I have thought of some more things that you can reuse rather than throw away or recycle:

Egg boxes – save for seed trays or kids crafts. If you know someone who keeps hens they may also find them useful
Carrier bags – try not to collect them in the first place, but if you do, they are good bin liners
Envelopes – stick a label over the address and reuse. Collect together and use for writing notes and shopping lists
Banana skins – I have heard that you can use these to polish leather shoes but have yet to try it!

This is an ongoing list so feel free to add your ideas.

Using up the leftovers and indulging in some curly veg

Watch out, they taste curly!

Watch out, they taste curly!

I have had a very productive weekend, although there are still a lot of things I would have liked to do. I did have a lie in this morning though – I made a point of it. What a luxury to chill out a bit on a Sunday morning!

I made some scrumptious banana bread. I always use the Delia Smith recipe here, but this time I substituted the orange and lemon peel for some toffee chips I bought a while ago to decorate a cake and it worked incredibly well – toffee and banana is a winning combination. I was also a lot easier than faffing around pulling peel off fruit and then wondering what to do with the fruit itself!

banana breadWhilst the oven was on I used the week’s bread ends to make bread pudding. Mr S took half for his Mum, and the rest will be used for lunches and puddings through the week.

For dinner I used Frugal Queen’s cheat’s meatballs recipe, which was very nice with home grown beans, carrots and chard. I made double for tomorrow’s dinner too. It was dead easy and certainly cheaper than a roast.

shedI sound as if I have done nothing but cook all day, but we did manage to get out and do a bit of tidying up in the garden, plus picking the veg for tea. I have no idea why the carrots turned out to be curly as we grew them in big pots so there were no stones. Still, they tasted nice! Mr S continues to make his sheds look fabulous, putting an old enamel sign he came across on the wall of one of them. I think he has plans for a woodburning stove and a veranda. He will be on George Clark’s Amazing Spaces next 🙂

To top it all, the new series of Downton Abbey started tonight. Brilliant as usual and an excellent way to finish the weekend. What did you all get up to?

Easy Banana Muffins

black bananasI love these! And I have some very over ripe bananas sitting looking at me accusingly. No one is going to eat them now, but they will eat banana muffins, so, a job for later. This makes a large batch so that you can freeze some for lunchboxes, etc. If you don’t want to do that, halve the ingredients.

500g self-raising flour
125g sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 medium bananas, mashed
240ml milk
160ml oil
2 eggs
Cake cases

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (gas mark 4). Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Then start to slowly whisk in the milk, oil and egg until well combined. Finally, fold in the mashed banana and combine well. Spoon the mix into your cake cases and bake for around 15 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.

 These are lovely warm, but equally nice cold. However, you can reheat them for about 15 seconds in the microwave.

Loaves and Laundry

imageI really needed a dry sunny day today, as I had so much laundry! However it was drizzly all day so instead I used DD3’s room as the drying room – luckily she is at university again and I have no student at the moment. I hung it everywhere I could and stuck the dehumidifier on for a bit to help it along.

I managed most off the cleaning, made two delicious banana and walnut loaves, got my hair cut and rang to try to sort the mortgage, or try to anyway. It is a work in progress!

imageMr Shoestring even persuaded me out for an early evening cycle ride to finish me off.

The banana loaf recipe is a Delia one and brilliant with over ripe bananas. You can find it here:

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/banana-and-walnut-loaf.html

 

 

Monster Chocolate Birthday Cake

It’s darling daughter no 3’s 16th birthday today. How can I have 3 daughters over the age of 16? it is a cliche I know, but time goes so fast!

We had lunch with her grandparents yesterday to celebrate and today she is going to dinner and the cinema with her dad and my eldest daughter.

monster cakeWe will have lunch here together first though and a slice of the Hairy Bikers chocolate cake I have made. It is an absolute monster cake! I think it will last quite a few days. It looks delicious and, apart from the cream, it was made completely from ingredients I had in the store cupboard.

So, happy birthday to my lovely girl.  As the song goes, ‘She don’t know she’s beautiful!’ Well, she is! (Takes after her mother…)

The recipe is here is you fancy it:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chocolatecake_89765

Cheat’s Christmas Chocolate Cake

I have slaved over a hot cake tin over past Christmases and spent lots of time and money making fabulous Christmas cakes that nobody eats. My lot just aren’t that keen!

So this year I asked them what they wanted and they said a chocolate cake.

photo (5)I could make one from scratch, but since I am working all the way through to Christmas Eve, I don’t feel guilty about cheating, and have made a delicious frugal cake that I know they will really enjoy.

The secret? Betty Crocker’s chocolate cake mix! This costs £2.25 for each cake, £2.25 for one pot of chocolate fudge icing, which will be enough to fill and top two cakes, plus around £2 for some decorations (I had some in the cupboard already).

Sure I could make chocolate cakes myself more cheaply, but I am short of time as well as money, so I don’t think less than £9 for two special cakes is bad….